By D. Kevin McNeir
Editor, Washington Informant Newspaper
With his sights set on Chicago, America’s third-largest city, as a target, recently-elected President Donald Trump claims to have a solution for the violent city where gunfire has become commonplace and created a homicide rate that last year reached a 20-year high.
His plan, while vague, follows a Jan 24 tweet in which he said, “Chicago’s murder rate is record setting – 4,331 shooting victims with 762 murders in 2016. If the Mayor can’t do it he must ask for Federal help.” Trump later added, again in a tweet, that if Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible “carnage” he would “send in the Feds!”
Subsequent reports from CNN citing law enforcement sources suggest that the plan calls for an increase in the number of agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, from a current force of 40 to 60.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel responded in a printed statement to Trump’s tweeted “threat.” “We have received no word from the federal government to confirm these reports but it would be welcome news if the administration has indeed agreed to one of Mayor Emanuel’s requests for federal resources.”
Trump, once again taking to Twitter, added to his comments concerning Chicago’s substantive escalation of violence, calling the situation “totally out of control.” During a recent meeting with Black community leaders from the Chicagoland area he reportedly said, “We’re going to have to do something about Chicago,” – a city which he previously described as being overrun by drug dealers and gangs.
Few would argue that something must be done to curb the shootings that have resulted in an unprecedented homicide toll of 762 deaths in 2016. The violence has continued into 2017 with 51 recorded homicides in January. But so far, it appears that Trump’s “plan” has been met with a lukewarm response.
Last year, Emanuel unveiled an expanded mentoring program for students in an effort to keep at-risk youth away from the city’s plethora of gangs, mostly holding on to turfs located on the city’s south and west sides. The mayor also announced plans to boost the number of officers within the Chicago Police Department.
There have also been recommendations from several city officials to use other measures, including sending more Drug Enforcement Administration and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents to Chicago, and pushing for an increase in the prosecution of those guilty of federal gun crimes.
Still, current numbers do not bode well for citizens and city officials fed up and frustrated by the rise of shootings and homicides in the Windy City. In 2016, Chicago, with a population of 2.7 million, recorded more shootings and homicides than any other U.S. city, according to both FBI and Chicago Police Department data. Additionally, the city’s murder clearance rate, a measure of solved and closed cases, stands as one of the lowest in the country.
Former Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) member and a co-founder of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers, Bobby Rush, has represented the city’s 1st District in Congress since 1993. He responded to Trump, tweeting back, “We welcome all the help we can get. Come to my district.”
Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-IL), who has represented the city’s 7th District since 1997 and remains a staunch member of the Congressional Black Caucus, shared his perspective. “The Bible says ‘come and let us reason together, otherwise we shall be utterly destroyed by the edge of the sword’,” he said. “Now, it’s true, and no one can deny, that we’re experiencing difficult times in relation to violence, poverty and frustration. But that’s no reason to go berserk.”
“We need to focus on job creation and follow the example of previous presidents like Roosevelt and his fellow Democrats whose plan helped unemployed Americans during the Great Depression. We need training programs in our schools so that youth can learn skills while also receiving a stipend until they’re fully prepared to put in productive work.”
“As for the rhetoric that’s going on, there’s a lot to be said for negotiating with love and respect for one another. Open warfare and the bashing of elected officials will not get us any closer to fixing the societal issues that we currently face.”
Davis lamented the lack of optimism shared by a majority of those who reside within his district.
“So many of my people have lost hope. They don’t believe that tomorrow will be any different or better than today. That’s why the behavior of a growing number of citizens has become warped. They can’t see that they’ve gone down the wrong road. We need to reason our way out of this dilemma; I’m confident that we can and will.”